Plants have evolved a variety of gene silencing pathways mediated by small RNAs. Mostly 21 or 24 nt in size, these small RNAs repress the expression of sequence homologous genes at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional and translational levels. These pathways, also referred as RNA silencing pathways, play important roles in regulating growth and development as well as in response to both biotic and abiotic stress. Although the molecular basis of these complicated and interconnected pathways has become clear only in recent years, RNA silencing effects were observed and utilized in transgenic plants early in the plant biotechnology era, more than two decades ago. Today, with a better understanding of the pathways, various genetic engineering approaches have been developed to apply RNA silencing more effectively and broadly. In addition to summarizing the current models of RNA silencing, this review discusses examples of its potential uses and related issues concerning its application in plant biotechnology.